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Eerie Arctic Research Station

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A classic setting for mystery and horror stories. A remote lab or research station out in the far north or south surrounded by ice, snow and more ice.

It has several key attributes:

  1. Going outside without proper clothes is likely to kill you.
  2. Snow storms make visibility poor and can easily take out key infrastructure such as communications.
  3. Even if you do have proper clothes, there is little to go to since the place is far from much of anything.
  4. As a research station, you can find all sorts of specialized equipment around.
  5. As a place in a very cold climate, you can find even more specialized equipment around.
  6. As an inhospitable location, people don't go there because it's convenient, but because they have a purpose (or because they were forced to).
  7. The ice can hold all sorts of treasure and secrets hidden within it.
  8. Even if communications are working, calling for help might not do anything. By the time a rescue chopper arrives, everyone could already be dead.
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A form of Closed Circle. Compare Bleak Border Base and Space Isolation Horror.


Examples

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    Comic Books 
  • There's a Donald Duck comic (by William Van Horn, a Canadian writer) where Donald joins a shady company during a Heat Wave in Duckburg so he can get a job at an arctic mining station. Sure enough, it turns out that it's actually part of a smuggling operation which Donald has to dismantle.
  • Whiteout follows U.S. Marshal Carrie Stetko's investigation of a murder at McMurdo Station in Antarctica. A sequel, Whiteout: Melt, deals with the theft of hidden nuclear weapons from an ex-Soviet base.
  • The 2003 Venom series kicks off with an evil clone of the Venom symbiote massacring and escaping from the Northern Canadian research station that was studying it. It makes its way to a nearby radar base, jumping from host to host as it looks for one that will last long enough to bring it to civilization.

    Film — Animated 

    Film — Live-Action 
  • Ice Station Zebra centers on a lonely Arctic research station that happens to be the closest manned site to where a reconnaissance satellite fell to Earth. Both the Soviet Union and the United States desperately want that satellite, since it managed to photograph secret military sites worldwide before falling out of orbit. It comes down to a race between Soviet fighter jets versus an American nuclear submarine.
  • Boa aka New Alcatraz is about an inescapable prison built in Antarctica to house the world's toughest criminals, but it also doubles as a research station. Pretty soon after the first batch of prisoners arrives, researchers Dug Too Deep and stumbled into a prehistoric Hollow Earth. Unfortunately for them, a giant boa immediately escapes and starts picking off the Dwindling Party.
  • Star Trek (2009) has the Delta Vega station, manned only by Scotty (who's been Reassigned to Antarctica after using Admiral Archer's beagle as a transporter Guinea pig) and Keenser.
  • Tell Me How I Die is actually a slasher set in the mainland U.S., but at a remote drug testing facility somewhere in the Rocky Mountains, so close enough. It shares all the elements of everyone being there for a purpose, the hostile snowy weather preventing anyone from leaving, etc.
  • The Thing from Another World is set at an Arctic scientific outpost, while the remake The Thing (1982) was set in Antarctica. There are two Antarctic research stations seen in the remake. One is the Norwegian post which discovered the alien spacecraft embedded in the ice crust. The other is the American post which adopts a sled dog that had been fleeing Norwegian commandos. The dog later turns out to be an evil, pleomorphic alien. While trying to learn more about their foe, the Americans visit the Norwegian post, which is found to be a thoroughly burnt and ravaged ruins.
    • Incidentally, it has become traditional for the winter-over team at Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station to watch both movies, as well as The Thing (2011), the latter's prequel, in February after the last flight out before Antarctic winter leaves.
  • The slasher film South of Sanity is set in an Antarctic research base, the crew of which is being picked off one by one by someone wearing a CPR dummy's face as a mask.
  • In Sometimes They Come Back... for More, an Antarctic base engaged in illegal mining activities unearths an immortal Satanist who begins killing and resurrecting everyone as zombies while he works to summon the Devil.
  • Zygote is set 20 Minutes into the Future at a base that mines asteroids that have fallen onto the Arctic circle.
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    Literature 
  • In the Animorphs novel "The Extreme", the Animorphs have to destroy a Yeerk facility in the Arctic that is developing a means of turning any body of water into a Yeerk pool using satellite broadcasts. It turns out that the Arctic was chosen so that the Venber, a previously-extinct ice-based species that the Yeerks have resurrected and placed under their control, could be used there.
  • The Matthew Reilly action/ espionage thriller Ice Station takes place in and around the Wilkes Station in Antarctica. In reality, Wilkes was a research station established in January of 1957 on Vincennes Bay, consisting of several squat, trailer-like structures set on solid ground. It was abandoned in 1969 when the structures had degraded to the point of becoming a fire hazard. But the Wilkes Station described in the book is a technically advanced (for the 1990's) structure several stories deep in the ice, built around a central open shaft allowing access to a large borehole leading to the water beneath - perfect for pitched gun battles on the balconies surrounding the shaft and desperate maneuvers to avoid the frigid waters and killer whales circling below. As described in the book:
    "Austin was standing at the edge of the large, round pool that formed the base of the Wilkes Ice Station. Five stories deep, Wilkes was a remote coastal research station, a giant underground cylinder that had literally been carved into the ice shelf. A series of narrow catwalks and ladders hugged the circumference of the vertical cylinder, creating a wide circular shaft in the middle of the station. Doorways led off each of the catwalks — into the ice — creating the five different levels of the station. Like many others before them, the residents of Wilkes had long since discovered that the best way to endure the harsh polar weather was to live under it."
  • In the novel Simon Black in the Antarctic - part of the Simon Black series by Ivan Southall - pilot Simon Black is sent to investigate when an Antarctic research drops out of contact with the outside world. When he arrives, he discovers the base had come under attack from a Lost Tribe of Neanderthals, and the radio had been destroyed in their first attack.
  • James Rollin's novel Artic features the sinister Soviet base "Grendel", built over the nest of a species of carnivorous, orca-like amphibious predators who hybernates in the caverns but occasionally will wake up to feed and patrol their territory, as if the harsh climate and the freezing waters weren't enough. It turns out, the monsters were the subject of American research on cryogenics and the lower levels are filled with frozen guinea pigs.
  • Night Without End by Alistair Maclean. An airplane crashes near a scientific outpost in Greenland. When the survivors are taken there, they clumsily knock over the radio to the fury of the scientists, because there's not enough food for them all and the nearest settlement is 300 kilometers away. Then they discover that the aircraft pilot was shot, raising the question of whether the radio being destroyed was an accident.

    Live-Action TV 
  • On The Big Bang Theory, the boys go to an arctic station between seasons to conduct experiments. Spending months alone with Insufferable Genius Sheldon was too much for them, so they had to resort to falsifying data to keep him happy.
  • Doctor Who:
    • The last story featuring the First Doctor, "The Tenth Planet", is set in a base in the middle of Antarctica that gets attacked by Cybermen. "Twice Upon a Time" also reveals that the First Doctor encountered a future self there before his upcoming regeneration.
    • "The Ice Warriors" uses this trope, but technically isn't at one of the poles (it's during an ice age instead).
    • The first two episodes of "The Seeds of Doom" are set in an Antarctic research station, where one of the research team has been taken over by an alien plant creature, and have very strong overtones of The Thing (1982).
    • "Last Christmas" is set at an Arctic research base where the workers, as well as the Doctor and Clara, are attacked by dream crabs. It later turned out to be a dream caused by the crabs, based on movies that used this trope like The Thing.
  • Helix: The first season is entirely set inside a massive Arctic research station where a viral outbreak at the base requires intervention from CBC officials. However, even they are unable to deal with the situation when the virus starts transforming people into ravenous Technically Living Zombies. The whole thing is slowly revealed to be part of a conspiracy by a secret society of immortals to develop a plague to wipe out humanity.
  • House: Played with in the episode "Frozen", where the A-plot is centered on a female scientist (Mira Sorvino) stationed at a small research outpost in Antarctica suffering from a mystery illness serious enough to make her cough up blood. Because of the impracticality of sending a medical team over, Dr. House and his staff communicate with and diagnose her from the safety of their offices in Philadelphia through a satellite feed. House even manages to get into a near-affair with her despite being separated from each other by thousands of miles.
  • Star Trek: Enterprise: In the episode "Regeneration", a team of scientists at an Arctic research station in the middle 22nd century comes across Borg drones preserved in the ice from Time Travel events that took place in Star Trek: First Contact. After investigating and recovering the bodies, the drones infiltrate the Enterprise and manage to relay a message to the rest of the Collective before they're stopped.
  • Supergirl (2015): The Thorul Arctic Research Station in season 2 is the current base of National City climate change scientist Rudy Jones, and the episode in which he becomes monster Parasite opens as a deliberate homage to The Thing (1982) — they discover a still warm wolf body from thousands of years ago in the ice, with the cold and remote conditions being the perfect survival spot for a prehistoric parasite.
  • The X-Files episode "Ice" is set inside an Arctic research station where the scientists have discovered a supposedly alien life form capable of Mind Control.

    Tabletop Games 
  • One of the "default" playsets for Fiasco is "The Ice", set in the (fictional) McMurdo research station in Antarctica. There is no predefined plot, but as the game's title suggests things there are expected to go badly and fast.
  • The Thing: Infection at Outpost 31: a tabletop adaptation of the film (cover pictured above).

    Video Games 
  • Noveria from Mass Effect is an ice-covered planet where corporations are free to conduct research that would be controversial or even illegal on the Citadel space. In the first game, your pursuit of Matriarch Benezia leads to Peak 15, a lab on this planet where scientists were trying to resurrect supposedly extinct creatures but lost contact with the outside world due to said creatures breaking out of control.
  • Ecopoint Antarctica from Overwatch was set up to study climactic anomalies in the region. Its staff put themselves into cryostasis after nearly running out of supplies during a severe storm; Mei was the only survivor.
  • The Thing (2002) continues from the first film after a rescue team is sent to investigate the remains of Outpost 31, then later runs into even more aliens at different research outposts and covert military bases across the continent.
  • In the third level of Strider 2, Strider Hiryu explores a hidden research station in Antarctica. Aside from soldiers, it contains a cyborg mammoth as its guardian, anti-gravity sections, lab scientists that turn into beasts, and the boss, a giant squid-like monster that's presumably part of the research project.
  • In Black Snow, your player character John Matsuda is an IT specialist being chugged out to the Amaluuk Research Station in Greenland with several other "IT specialists" to investigate why the station's gone dark a week ago. What's supposed to be a routine service leaves all of your coworkers separated, dead, or worse, and, as nightfall and below-zero temperatures take over the station, leaves you to find out what's happened.

    Western Animation 
  • In the second season of Exosquad, the title squad accidentally discovers a Neosapien research facility hidden in the Antarctica, which turns out to be researching and producing the first batch of Neo Lords.
  • The Martin Mystery episode "The Body-Swapper" was a Whole Plot Reference to The Thing. An ancient, shape shifting organism unearthed in the Canadian tundra begins terrorizing a Center base located there.


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